After COVID-19 restrictions eliminated its 2020 event, Watkins Glen International is back on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule as the sport returns from its two-week hiatus.
The 35th annual Go Bowling at The Glen is set for Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), so spare us a few minutes to preview all the Cup action ahead.
STARTING FROM SQUARE ONE
Brad Keselowski will lead the field to its first green flag since July 18, starting from the pole to begin a stretch of 14 consecutive weeks of racing. The starting top three at Watkins Glen will be a Team Penske party as Keselowski will be followed by teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney on the grid.
Alongside Blaney in Row 2 will be the No. 5 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson. The entire starting lineup can be found here.
RELATED: See the complete Cup Series lineup
WATKINS GLEN HISTORY
— The first road course in Watkins Glen was crafted by Cornell University law student Cameron Argetsinger via public roads through the village in 1948. Argetsinger had nowhere to race his sports car and convinced the Chamber of Commerce of the Village of Watkins Glen to host the first post-World War II street race in America on the 6.6-mile circuit.
— The course we know today was constructed in 1956 and opened in 1957, its first major event being a NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) Series race on Aug. 4 won by Buck Baker. The series returned in 1964 (Billy Wade) and in 1965 (Marvin Panch) but didn’t come back again until 1986.
— The Inner Loop section was added to the course’s backstretch in 1992, lengthening the track from 2.3 miles to 2.45 miles.
— The course was completely repaved in 2016, eliminating concrete patches that had previously dotted the track.
— This week’s race marks the 38th time the series will race at Watkins Glen.
Source: Racing Insights
NASCAR teams will utilize the low-downforce, high-horsepower package this weekend at Watkins Glen. As at all road courses on this year’s schedule, the cars will be trimmed with shorter spoilers and splitter lengths to lessen the impact of downforce around this seven-turn road course while also having more available power under the drivers’ right foot courtesy of 750 HP.
Watkins Glen is a unique road course for the pure speed element the layout brings. That speed combined with left and right turns — as well as how grippy the pavement is following the 2016 repave — creates a challenge for Goodyear to prepare the proper tire.
“In racing, speed means that there is a lot of heat generated in the tire, and that is the chief concern at The Glen,” Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, said. “For that reason, we bring a different tread compound than we have at other road courses, and one that is more heat resistant.“
Teams will use the same tire utilized in 2019 and will have five sets to use in the race.
Fans will be back in full force for this weekend’s event, the first time NASCAR will race in New York since 2019. Tickets remain available and can be purchased here or at the racetrack.
— Chase Elliott has won each of the last two races at Watkins Glen, including his first career victory in 2018 and three of the four stages.
— Three of the last nine Watkins Glen races have produced first time winners (Marcos Ambrose 2011, AJ Allmendinger 2014, Elliott 2018).
— Only Ambrose (2011-12) and Elliott (2018-19) have repeated as winners in the last 11 Watkins Glen events.
— Only four drivers led laps at The Glen in 2019, the fewest number in the past 26 events there.
— Elliott has won six of the past eight road-course races and has seven such victories overall, trailing only Tony Stewart (eight) and Jeff Gordon (nine) for most all-time.
— There have been a total of five cautions for incident in the past three WGI races and only two instances ever of overtime, the most recent coming in 2011.
— There have been two last-lap passes at The Glen.
— There has not been a green-flag stretch over 20 laps in four of the past five road course races.
Source: Racing Insights
IF I WAS A BETTING MAN…
In all ways unsurprising, Chase Elliott is listed by BetMGM as the landslide favorite to win Sunday’s race at 9-5 (+180) odds. His teammate, Kyle Larson, slots in with the second-best chances at 9-2 (+450) with Martin Truex Jr. (13-2, +650) next.
While Elliott’s listing is as expected, perhaps Larson’s should come as a surprise. In six starts at The Glen, Larson has three top 10s and one lone top five, a fourth-place finish in his 2014 track debut. However, Larson has performed well on road courses this year, winning at Sonoma Raceway in June while turning in a runner-up finish at Circuit of the Americas.
Looking for a sleeper? Ross Chastain may be one to keep an eye on this weekend. Coming off Tuesday’s announcement that Chastain will drive the No. 1 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing Team for the next seasons, Chastain has three top 10s in four road course events this year — fourth at COTA and seventh at both Sonoma and Road America. BetMGM lists Chastain at 40-1 (+4000) odds for The Glen, so consider him a possible play for cash this week.
RELATED: Odds for Watkins Glen race
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts. It’s not too late to join in on the competition.
The 2021 Fantasy Live points leaders are Denny Hamlin (870), Kyle Larson (847) and William Byron (740).
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
New for this season, NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.